Legitimate rape

Trending on Twitter right now: #legitimaterape. Why? Because Missouri Representative (R) Todd Akin, who is running for Senator, thinks there is such a thing.

Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, who also happens to be the state’s Republican senatorial nominee, has some important information for women everywhere:

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Now, what is the difference between legitimate and illegitimate rape? Akin, who is somehow a member of the House’s science and technology committee, did not explain.

Now, to be fair, it was in an interview, and he says he misspoke. But the way he misspoke is…kind of telling. Bitchez always be lying about rape so that people will give them stuff, amirite, so there’s lots of illegitimate rape where actually she totally wanted it but then lied afterward so that people will give her stuff, or to explain that inconvenient pregnancy, or something like that. It’s science. And technology.


  1. 'Tis Himself says

    from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare

    Citation seriously needed.

  2. crowepps says

    Unfortrunately, it’s difficult to find objective information among the many ‘why punish them both’ ProLife and ‘when bad things happen dedicate your suffering to God’ religious sites, but I did find one older citation contradicting his statement:

    Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women

    The national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age (aged 12 to 45); among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.

  3. says


  4. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.

    I guess to some people, that’s rare, but for me, that’s 3,204 too many.
    Oh, and I guess each of these women were missing the “this is legitimate rape. stop the pregnancy” gene.

  5. Fin says

    I don’t see how the rate of pregnancy-from-rape is particularly relevant. If it happens once, that’s enough for the argument from rape with regards to abortion to work.

    Which kind of exposes how bizarre the debate is in the U.S., where you have to go to these particular cases (i.e. pregnancy-from-rape, as opposed to pregnancy-from-every-other-cause) when arguing about a woman’s right to choose. It’s shifted so far away from the actual question that it’s in this weird place that conservatives will only accept a woman’s right to be in charge of her reproductive system if she had absolutely no control in conception (but as Akin illustrates, even then they’ll doubt she had no control).

  6. crowepps says

    The 5% doesn’t take into account those women whose doctors were savvy enough to immediately prescribe a high one-time dose of birth control pills in order to forestall the possibility of pregnancy.

    Must say, I find the repetition of the myth that ‘Plan B is an abortificant’ really depressing. I realize that ProLife and Catholic sites constantly push this falsehood to the ignorant, but it is not now and never has been true. Preventing conception is NOT under any reasonable definition used by ordinary people ‘abortion’ — but of course, they’re NOT reasonable.

  7. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Which kind of exposes how bizarre the debate is in the U.S., where you have to go to these particular cases (i.e. pregnancy-from-rape, as opposed to pregnancy-from-every-other-cause) when arguing about a woman’s right to choose. It’s shifted so far away from the actual question that it’s in this weird place that conservatives will only accept a woman’s right to be in charge of her reproductive system if she had absolutely no control in conception (but as Akin illustrates, even then they’ll doubt she had no control).

    Which is exactly what you’d expect if the purpose is to prevent women from controlling their own sexuality and reproduction. If a woman’s been raped, it’s already been removed from her control, from a simple-minded, misogynistic perspective.

  8. Fin says


    That was my point. The conservatives have moved the debate so far along towards their intended goal, that this is now a major battleground for it. There’s something disturbing about that.

  9. LeftSidePositive says

    Can I swear about THIS, please!?!

    Also, what is the base rate here? What is the incidence of pregnancy resulting from one act of unprotected consensual intercourse? I wouldn’t be surprised if it were also around 5%.

    And, how many women who are raped are also on OCPs for the consensual sex in their lives or for more complicated medical reasons? That will also drive down the percentage of conceptions.

  10. says

    The sheer stupidity of so many Republican politicians simply stuns me! I don’t understand how this is a viable political party! A man like Akin shouldn’t be in Congress let alone the Senate. It’s not possible to “mis-speak” oneself in public to this extent. Clearly, the man is a misogynistic shit who thinks women are there for the taking, and, should they get pregnant — well, after all, it’s the man’s child, after all, and she did — she really did — want it! God, these people make me sick!

  11. peterh says

    Nobody can “misspoke” that horrendously without first being many sandwiches shy of a picnic.

  12. keri says

    So I’ve been trying to think about how it is that he misspoke, and the best I can come up with is that “legitimate rapes don’t result in pregnancy” is that he doesn’t think rape is “really” rape unless it’s against a man. Because, of course, in most cases, a man who is raped can’t become pregnant.

    Or else it’s something to do with the myth that women can’t get pregnant if they don’t orgasm, and of course if it’s “really” rape, that’s not going to happen. That would be the so-called natural defences of the woman’s body.


    Saw someone retweet something about “oh *boohoo*, how can you use this guy’s idiocy as an example of the entire Republican Party, but when a Democrat says something stupid, you don’t claim it’s representative of the entire party” and I think that pissed me off more than Akin’s comments. I’m resigned to the fact that Republicans seem to think this way, and I’m not surprised when another one makes it clear, just saddened. I don’t think I can muster up the outrage anymore.

  13. Midnight Rambler says

    The thing is, an insensitive person could conceivably “misspeak” by unintentionly implying that many reported rapes aren’t legitimate (though in Akin’s case, I have no doubt that his usage was fully intentional). But even leaving that aside – he said you can’t get pregnant from a rape because “female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”. There’s no way to spin that into “misspeaking” – it’s pure stupid.

  14. Orlando says

    Curiously, this myth (that rape won’t produce pregnancy) is a particularly ancient one. At least, it extends back to the medieval and Renaissance periods. You can imagine how it was used then. That’s an impressive inability to move on we’re seeing; maybe they’d like to re-introduce ‘swimming’ women to check if they’re witches, while they’re at it.

  15. The Ridger says

    Clearly he by “legitimate rape” he means a true case of violent rape, not the much more common “crying rape, she-changed-her-mind” or “she-was-asking-for-it” rapes. This is nothing new; I don’t understand why people pretend they don’t understand him. He’s perfectly clear: he’s a sonuvabitch who doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, especially about the magical-anti-pregnancy “ways” the “female body” has to not get pregnant via violence – which mainly proves he never fucking watches the news, either, but he’s perfectly clear. It’s all part of the “pure woman” no-one-I-know-will-ever-be-raped mindset.

  16. says

    I only occasionally read this blog so I am not sure how well corrections are received but I notice your introduction says his named Scott rather than Todd. I am pretty tired so it actually did confuse me for a few seconds.

    Other than that I do not have much to say. I am amazed at the amount of ignorance in his statement. The Dunning–Kruger effect strikes again. Sadly, like many people who say stupid things and have it pointed out to them, I doubt he will sit back and reevaluate his stance or question whether he knows anything about this subject. He will likely stick to his guns, use a different talking point and eventually pretend it never happened.

  17. says

    Orlando said,

    Curiously, this myth (that rape won’t produce pregnancy) is a particularly ancient one. At least, it extends back to the medieval and Renaissance periods.

    I am not surprised he is stuck this far in the past. I have a physics degree and have TAed a lot. I have noticed that many of my students, and people in general are firm Aristotelian physicists. Old ideas die hard.

  18. says

    Oh good. I see it is all fixed up now. I was a bit worried my head might be ripped off. I read Orac’s blog a lot but one thing he does not seem to like are people pointing out the trivial errors in the post. Something I can understand as some people do use such things to derail posts and ignore their content. Glad to be of service.

  19. says

    Clearly, us women will have to carry around with us forms that can be quickly signed by a rapist if the rapist decides to attack us so we can prove its a “legitimate rape”. You know, just so we can prove it was “legitimate”.

  20. grendelsfather says

    It is not Todd Akin’s fault he is a misogynistic idiot. Misogynistic idiots are a dime a dozen, and he is no more or less worthy of disdain than any other misogynistic idiot.

    The real problem is the people of his district who kept electing him and people throughout Missouri who voted for him as the Republican nominee for Senate. His idiocy has been documented many times, and no one should be surprised at his recent statements. He simply reflects the sensibilities(?)of the misogynistic idiots who voted for him.

    Still, it is not the politicians’ fault. It never is. It is the fault of like-minded idiots who vote for these politicians.

    Full Disclosure: I am from Texas, so if anyone wants to take potshots at our electorate, he or she should have plenty of ammunition to return fire.

  21. Pierce R. Butler says

    Fakin’ Akin: … the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

    Give him credit for an interesting what-if.

    • If any such bodily mechanisms existed, they’d be the subject of women’s lore at least as much as pregnancy, lactation, menstruation and all that Girl Stuff™. Even guys would at least know the word for it.*

    • To whatever degree this bodily function could be brought under conscious control, we’d see pharmaceutical corps, herbalists, and woo-meisters all over it.

    • If women could select their choice of semen (as do queen bees, iirc), what would happen? I would predict a much smaller population within a few generations, with a greater collective resemblance to Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, and Harry Belafonte – but am sure I miss several major points with my male gaze.

    • Given universal contraception, my scenario could edge towards reality in a few generations. Yes, it is a form of eugenics – but one with room for individual choice, economic & Darwinian realities, social & ecological detente, and even free-market principles. (I would expect male peacockery past the point of irrational exuberance, but …)

    He’p yo’se’f, sf writers…

    * Let’s call it akinizing.

  22. Jandorian says

    Too bad the infotainment “reporters” lack the fortitude to persistently pursue the statement of fact regarding human reproduction. As much as this tool deserves to be hammered about the “legitimate rape” comment, I’d like to see more reporters drilling down on his counterfactual/ignorant statements about “what [he] understand[s] from doctors.”

  23. Claire Ramsey says

    Ignorant, bigoted, arrogant troglodyte.

    I wonder where those medical experts he referred to went to medical school.

  24. dianne says

    I wonder where those medical experts he referred to went to medical school.

    I’d like to say they’re figments of his own imagination, but anti-choice idiots go to medical school sometimes too. Let’s hope at least it wasn’t an OB he was talking too, because IMHO that is an ACOG certification pulling level of ignorance, stupidity, and malice.

  25. sambarge says

    Every woman, as a basic human right, has bodily integrity and therefore the right to an abortion on demand, regardless of how she got pregnant.

    I just thought that needed saying before the conservative Right to Lifers/Anti-Choicers once more moved the goal-posts of the discussion down the “When Is It Okay To Deny A Woman Her Rights” highway.

    It’s never okay. Rape is rape. And, if women could magically control their reproduction, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

  26. Ruth says

    My single vote against Akin hasn’t done much good, but I keep trying. Akin has a large, homeschooled family. He is one of the reasons Missouri has poor monitoring of homeschooling.

    When our old school district(Michigan) was dragging its feet on my daughter’s IEP, we looked into homeschooling. In Michigan, homeschoolers have to take standardized tests to access progress. Missouri has little monitoring. Our current district has great special ed and we didn’t need to homeschool. ( My daughter with reading problems now meets the state standards for language arts, and exceeds the math and science standards.)

    The Christian Right fights against sex ed in schools, but Akin and Bristol Palin really need some science-based sex ed.

  27. Starfury says

    That is quite a medieval viewpoint Rep. Akin is trying to cloak in science-like bullshit.

  28. says

    Akin is not only full of shit on repro bio, he makes it sound like abortion is mutually exclusive of prosecuting the rapist. I guess he thinks women get abortions as a way of punishing their rapists by proxy, whereas we pro-choicers seem to think they terminate so they can get on with their lives.

  29. jmst says

    After spending more time than I should have trying to pinpoint what the hell might have been the empirical basis, although obviously distorted by hearsay, for his claim, I’m confident to state that Evolutionary Psychology is in part to be blamed.

    It’s been observed for some time that a history of exposure to the father’s semen reduces the risk of pre-enclampsia, a complication connected with a hyper-reaction of the mother’s immune system to fetal antigens (inherited from the father). In come Davis&Gordon (2006) with their EvoPsy just-so story: “semen familiarity can be used to assay the likelihood of future paternal investment. A mechanism (i.e. a preeclampsia trigger) that could distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar semen as a means of differentiating between committed and uncommitted males could have had considerable adaptive significance” (http://scholar.google.at/scholar?cluster=5202213927805458716&hl=de&as_sdt=0&sciodt=0) – ignoring the much more obvious explanation that this is just a side-effect of how the immune system learns to discriminate friend and foe, and handwaving over the fact that pre-eclampsia is also a major factor in maternal mortality.

    Todd Akin manages to add quite a lot of wrong to this already flimsy hypothesis, though, equating “significantly increased rate of miscarriages” with “no pregnancies to speak of”. Besides, if the effect were that strong, which it isn’t, it would equally imply no pregnancies to speak of after consensual one-night-stands, and artificial insemination would require heavy doses of immune suppressants. And, of course, if that’s what he tries to allude to, marital rape obviously doesn’t count, and neither do any other situations of repeated abuse by the same perpetuator.

    Or, as I’ve said it elsewhere earlier today:

    After doing my best to locate the actual science that may have become the basis for his claims after being distorted by several generations of word-of-mough, I really do have to blame it on EvoPsy. Sometime in the mid-2000s, some of those f
    olks for whom everything that can be observed in humans (read: American psychology undergrads) is, per default, an adaptative strategy of parental investment, have come up with the hypothesis that increased rates of pre-eclampsia* are a strategy for the cessation of pregnancies where the father is unlikely to invest, or even specifically against pregnancies resulting from rape. Even if we ignore everything that’s wrong with this hypothesis**, he’s still showing that he’s mathematically illiterate. “Significantly increased” risk of pre-eclampsia doesn’t mean “practically no successful pregnancies” by any stretch of imagination, and even if it did, that would only be the more reason for an abortion since pre-eclempsia can lead to serious complications. And anyway it’s quite ironic that an out creationist like him should be using EvoPsy arguments when it suits him.

    *pre-eclampsia is an immune disorder where the maternal immune system, triggered by unfamiliar fetal proteins, the products of genes inherited from the father, hyperreacts which can lead to shedding the placenta. Typically “onset of symptoms in the late second or third trimester, most commonly after the 32nd week. Some women will experience pre-eclampsia as early as 20 weeks, though this is rare” (Wiki).

    **For a start, a mitigating effect of exposure to paternal antigens is *exactly* what we should expect knowing what we know about the workings of the immune system, so the default assumptions should be that it’s a side-effect of how our immune system learns to discriminate friend and foe. To the extent that I can read immunology papers, this is confirmed by the observation that the same effect is observed in rodents (see here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12896827), where familiarity/unfamiliarity of the female’s body to the semen does nothing to predict the male’s likelihood of investing in the brood – since fathers aren’t involved in pup-rearing one way or the other. That’s ignoring the inherent ridiculousness of interpreting what may be the #1 cause of maternal mortality as an “anti-rape adaptation”, or indeed as an adaptation of any kind (“In some countries such as Colombia it is the main cause of maternal mortality. Up to 42% of maternal deaths are attributed to this disorder in Colombia (2). Pre-eclampsia / eclampsia probably accounts for more than 50 000 maternal deaths worldwide each year (2,3)” – http://www.gfmer.ch/Endo/Course2003/Eclampsia.htm )


    Immunologists: “a history of exposure to paternal semen mesurably reduces the rates for certain complications that are caused by a hyperreaction of the mothers immune system to fetal antibodies, and we know it’s not a healthy cohor
    t effect (e.g., women living in monogamous relationships having, having, on average, healthier lifestyles or something) because it can be replicated in mice under controlled conditions.”

    Evolutionary pschologists: “This looks like human females are physiologically adapted to reduce the probability of pregnancies where the male is unavailable to help in child-rearing” (ignoring the fact that this leaves the same effect in mice totally unexplained).

    Republicans: “Women who have been raped don’t get pregnant anyway, therefore we don’t need to think about exceptions for rape while we’re taking away women’s rights to control their own bodies.”

  30. Sunny says

    “from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare”

    – I suppose this is what you get from talking to Dr. Jesus every day. After all he himself was conceived by magic.

  31. sambarge says

    I suppose this is what you get from talking to Dr. Jesus every day. After all he himself was conceived by magic.

    Conceived by a magical rape, as Mary would be unable to withhold consent from an omnipotent being who commanded her to carry his son. So… I guess rape does result in pregnancies, unless Akin is suggesting that Jesus wasn’t the son of God?

  32. says

    Given that the whole thing is abhorrent, what strikes me particularly is the way he spoke of punishment. It’s a matter, apparently, of not punishing the fetus when we need to punish the rapist.

    So…where’s the woman in that scenario? Does he not consider that total disruption of her life is a punishment that she doesn’t deserve? Whether she raises the child or gives the baby away, her life will be further changed, her future will be decided in ways that should be HER choice, not his. Depending upon where she lives and what her family believes, she might lose her job or her life (if “honor” is at stake).

    (I think these people focus too tightly in general on “choice” meaning “abort or don’t abort”, and forget that part of what’s going on is the woman’s choice not only of what will happen to her body, but what course her life will take.)

    So…he wants to condemn the woman to 9 months of pregnancy and to childbirth, which is at best a painful ordeal and at worst–well, I don’t like to contemplate the worst–and that’s not part of the punishment equation?

  33. Esteleth, Who Knows How to Use Google says

    This all goes back to fundies’ views on women: rape is the illegal “use” of a woman. A husband cannot rape his wife, she belongs to him. Likewise, a slut (defined as a woman who has ever had sexual feelings for any man other than her her husband, or a woman who inspires sexual feelings in any man other than her husband) cannot be raped, she is fair game. And God decides when a woman is going to get pregnant – any person attempting to interfere with this is sinning (and God can override this anyway). Ergo, if a woman gets pregnant, then God must have decided that she should get pregnant. And since God is good and doesn’t do shitty things to good people, a woman who gets pregnant as a result of rape wasn’t actually raped, because either the man was her husband and thus entitled to her body, or she was a bad woman who exists in a state of constant consent.

  34. Caryn says

    Total digression from the evopsych: Actually, preeclampsia rates are measurably – but only very slightly – lowered by seminal priming. A lot of incidence seems to be down to simple genetic mismatch (eg between HLA-C and KIR-AA) and docs are thinking of it as maternal-fetal conflict over the size of the fetus at delivery. IOW it’s a human disease because only humans have to deal with the obstetric dilemma.

    Subsequent pregnancies go better, likely because the trophoblastic remodeling of the spiral arteries sticks around postpartum and can be exploited by subsequent placenta.


  35. Duke says

    For a bunch of people that call others stupid, you seem stupid to me. Has it crossed any of you dummies minds that by “legitimate” rape, he’s referring to an actual rape, and not a case of someone claiming rape, when in fact it wasn’t?

    Not every woman that claims she was raped were actually raped. Ask the Duke University Lacrosse team about that.

    Studies suggest that roughly 25% of rape claims are false.

  36. xmaseveeve says

    You might think that more people would become pregnant after rape, because a rapist is less likely to wear a condom (see Julian Assange). However, I’m surprised that the figure is so high. Aren’t rape victims always offered the morning after pill?

    Akin’s expert witness, now in his eighties, believes that female rape victims can’t become pregnant, because, during the assault, ‘God’ would have given them temporary ‘spastic tubes’.

    So Akin is actually suggesting that some rape victims enjoy the experience. (Rapists often express a belief that they thought the victim would ‘like it once it was in’.) There are so many hidden assumptions and implications to what this moron said.

    In the case of Assange, his own lawyer described admitted acts which constitute rape. I think Assange may be such a megalomaniac that he wants to leave many women impregnated with his precious sperm to spread his perfect genes. He’s not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy!

    And as for George Galloway? He’s currently in the Middle East. I think he’s finished. Too many women are seeing through him. And we have the vote now.

  37. xmaseveeve says

    Duke, I’m just sidestepping your post because I value my shoes. Get a brain. You’ll get one in Walmart.

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